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Stroke Rehabilitation: Mary’s Story

Rehabilitation team helps a beloved mom and grandma get back to her family after a stroke.

Stroke survivor Mary stands up for a picture guided by her rehabilitation team.

Mary stands up for a picture guided by her rehabilitation team.

From Caregiver to Patient

Having dedicated most of her life to caring for her family, Mary Ford knows a thing or two about good caregiving. She raised seven children with her husband, and later took care of him when he was diagnosed with dementia and Alzheimer’s. Watching him go through his diagnosis and treatment made her nervous about ever having to entrust herself to someone else’s care. So when she was hospitalized for a stroke, Mary felt uneasy about the whole experience.

“When Mom was taken to the hospital, initially she asked us to stay for the night,” says Mary’s daughter Karen. It was difficult for her to be alone in an unfamiliar place. But once Mary and her family got to know the highly trained and caring inpatient rehabilitation team at the Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, their worries went away.

The Road to Recovery

Mary spent several weeks at Johns Hopkins participating in physical, occupational and speech therapy. The stroke affected the right side of her body, making it difficult to stand up, use her hands and even talk.

At 88 years old, Mary is an avid Scrabble player and church choir singer. She knows her way around the iPad. “She loves socializing and loves people,” shares Karen. And even after her stroke, she wasn’t about to give up her favorite things in life.

I know it takes patience; you just have to believe that will you continue to get better.

- Mary Ford

Mary surrounded by her children and the stroke rehabilitation team.

An Unexpected Complication

A few days before Mary was to be transferred to subacute rehabilitation, she woke up with pain in her left leg. She had developed a blood clot in her superficial femoral artery that completely blocked the blood flow. Mary was rushed to the operating room, and within hours surgeons removed the blood clot.

“It is situations like this when it is important to have a quick transfer from rehabilitation to surgery. Thankfully, we have both of these services in close proximity at Johns Hopkins Bayview,” points out Dr. Krishnaj Gourab, the chair of the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at the medical center.

According to Dr. Heitham Hassoun, the attending vascular surgeon who performed Mary’s surgery, arterial blood clot in a leg can be a limb- and life-threatening condition that should be addressed in minutes to hours. “I’d like to commend the rehabilitation team, as well as Dr. Magruder and the rest of our resident physicians, for their quick assessment, preparation of the operating room and response that saved the patient’s leg,” shares Dr. Hassoun.

Back to Making Progress

It’s difficult enough to overcome the numerous issues caused by stroke. Having to go through a surgery on top of that was a bit of a setback for Mary. But she was far from giving up.

“I know it takes patience; you just have to believe that you will continue to get better,” says Mary.

Mary's son Mark serving breakfast at the hospital cafeteria.Mary's son Mark taking orders at a breakfast buffet he organized and catered in appreciation of his mother's rehabilitation team.

“Mary has been making great progress improving her functional performance and overall level of function. We’ve been working to help her with transfers, moving around and activities of daily living,” says Dana Alonzi, one of Mary’s occupational therapists.

Thankful for everything the Johns Hopkins Bayview inpatient rehabilitation team has done for their mother, several of Mary’s children organized an appreciation breakfast for the staff. A part-time caterer, Mary’s son Mark set up a station with fresh omelets made to order, feeding rehabilitation therapists, nurses, physicians and other rehab team members.

“From nurses to housekeeping, everyone on the rehabilitation team was excellent. They made our mom feel comfortable and safe, while helping her get back on her feet,” shares Karen.

Meet Mary’s Treatment Team

Rehabilitation medicine: Krishnaj Gourab, M.D., Dominique Vinh, M.D. (attending physicians); Christina Lin, M.D., Margaret Kott, M.D. (resident physicians)
Vascular surgery & general surgery: Heitham Hassoun, M.D., (attending physician); J. Trent Magruder, M.D., Alex Solomon, M.D. (resident physicians)
Occupational therapists: Dana Alonzi and Ali Farmer
Speech-language pathologist: Kim Gold
Physical therapist: Eleasa Cundiff
Social worker: Cathy Johnson
Rehabilitation nurses: Ann Marie Lee-Wilkins and Linda Butzner

A brain scan

Learn More About Stroke

Stroke occurs when blood flow to the brain is disrupted. This can happen when a blood clot blocks one of the vital blood vessels in the brain (ischemic stroke). Or it can be caused by a blood vessel in the brain bursting and spilling blood into surrounding tissues (hemorrhagic stroke). Even a brief interruption in blood supply to the brain can result in long-lasting health issues.

Learn more about stroke types, risk factors and effects.

An empty bed in a Johns Hopkins inpatient rehabilitation unit.

Rehabilitation After Stroke

Stroke rehabilitation helps stroke survivors regain as much independence and quality of life as possible. The stroke rehabilitation team revolves around the patient and family. The team helps set short- and long-term treatment goals for recovery and is made up of many skilled professionals. Rehabilitation medicine is designed to meet each person's specific needs, so the rehabilitation program is different for each patient.

Learn more about rehabilitation after stroke at Johns Hopkins.

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